Management of Metadata: An Integrated Approach to Structured Documentation

Aufsätze in Sammelwerken 2016

Knut Wenzig, Christian Matyas, Daniel Bela, Ingo Barkow, Marc Rittberger

In: Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Jutta von Maurice, Michael Bayer, Jan Skopek , Methodological Issues of Longitudinal Surveys
Wiesbaden: Springer
S. 627-647


This chapter discusses the core elements of the metadata strategy striving for a structured approach to documentation, which is necessary to efficiently link, deduplicate, re-use, and present all information in two languages for the six panels and two school-reform studies of the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). For this purpose, the NEPS Data Center has implemented a relational database that enables storing and linking diverse metadata on studies, instruments, items,datasets, and variables in a systematic, powerful, and highly consistent fashion. As a crucial feature, metadata entities can be cross-referenced; for example, questionnaire items can be linked to datasets, allowing for a dynamic documentationthat leads directly from a dataset variable to the corresponding question in a questionnaire. In addition, the re-use of metadata enhances data quality because it allows for the tracking of inadvertent changes in variables across panel waves and starting cohorts. The structured documentation also enables an efficient translation of metadata because re-used elements only need to be translated once. As a result of the systematic approach to metadata management, the documentation utility for researchers working with NEPS datais optimized. Since metadata are centrally maintained in a database, corrections and extensions become effective in all derived documentation material, such as multilingual codebooks, survey instruments, and dataset labels, in a synchronous and consistent way. In addition, the NEPSplorer offers a powerful metadata online service that provides the researcher with an interactive exploration of, efficient search for, and fast retrieval of metadata. Finally, the established metadata system offers a solid basis for further highly innovative developments in the field of metadata management.

Knut Wenzig

Research Associate in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department